Thursday, November 29, 2007

Something So Right/Wrong

I revisited the Clay Pot this week at the request of some friends. I had not been there in over a year so I felt it was time to refresh my memory. There are many good things about a visit to the CP including the multiple spice smells as you walk in the door. The combination of curry, tea, and several other scents make your mouth begin to water before the menus arrive.

I noted a few changes in the menu since my last visit and ordered Nancy's Special. This combination of noodles, meat, and fruit slices sounded delicious and looked almost as good when it was served. The flavors were fine but... Some of the fruit was a bit past its prime. The spring roll was dried out. The portions were small. The price was too high for what was served. All good reasons to come here only once a year. I keep hoping things will get better.

That's kind of a theme with several Waco restaurants that have a good deal of potential and a number of redeeming qualities but just can't seem to get it right. The taste/quality of the food at Clay Pot is generally good to very good but they trip up on some important details that keep them from being a really good restaurant.

A recent visit to Zack and Jim's Hog Creek Icehouse was much the same story. The 8,000 square foot facility is a great looking place. Big open dining room, private upstairs, and a large patio out back. This place was made for music both indoors and outdoors.

Nothing too original on the menu but with a little effort Hog Creek could compete with Lake Brazos Steakhouse or Cotton Patch or any number of others that have this type of burger, sandwich, CFS, or steak menu. Unfortunately the kitchen can't execute this simple basic Texas concept. The service was efficient. The drinks appeared right on time but the food took forever on a day when only 20-25 people were in for lunch.

When it did arrive, the food was just not up too par. When I asked my companions to compare our lunch with Lake Brazos, we all agreed that the food was superior at LBSH without question. Although the building was more interesting and exciting, even the burgers did not meet expectations.

I saved the number one complaint for last. The smell of stale beer and smoke for the bar covered the whole dining room. Despite being enclosed, the smells from the bar ruined the dining atmosphere. Not much excuse for this. I understand that this is a bar. I doubt if food sales at lunch pay 10% of Hog Creek's bills but really.... most people will find this a turnoff.

The technology exists to properly ventilate the non-smoking areas of a restaurant. I just takes a little effort to have a kitchen that can turn out top notch Texas standards. It is so easy for something(s) right to be canceled out by something wrong.